U.S. District Judge Roger W. Titus has sentenced the president of the Metropolitan Money Store, Joy Jackson, age 41, of Fort Washington, Md., to 151 months in prison followed by five years of supervised release for conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud in connection with a mortgage fraud scheme that falsely promised to help homeowners facing foreclosure keep their homes and repair their damaged credit, announced United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein. Judge Titus also entered a judgement ordering Jackson to pay restitution of $16,880,884.86 and to forfeit three residential properties in Oxon Hill, Capitol Heights and Laurel, Maryland and three vehicles.
“Joy Jackson presided over a ‘money store’ that was in the business of ripping off homeowners and mortgage lenders by submitting fraudulent paperwork to support over $37 million of loans that were never intended to be repaid,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. “Instead of helping financially distressed homeowners keep their homes as promised, she secretly used the home equity to buy luxuries for herself, including furs, jewelry and over $800,000 on her wedding.”
“All financial crimes add to the underground economy, erode the integrity of our tax system and threaten the financial health of our communities,” stated C. André Martin, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge. “Within the IRS-Criminal Investigation's mission, we are working to deter fraud by educating people about scams and letting people know that we catch and punish offenders.”
According to her plea agreement, Jackson was a licensed mortgage broker, but was not licensed to provide credit repair. In May 2005, Jackson and co-defendant Jennifer McCall incorporated Metropolitan Money Store, located in Lanham, Md., which offered foreclosure consultation and credit services to financially distressed homeowners. Also at that time, Jackson, Jennifer McCall, Jackson’s husband, Kurt Forham, and McCall’s husband, Clifford McCall and other coconspirators incorporated Fordham & Fordham Investment Group Ltd. (F&F) and Burroughs & Smythe Financial Services Inc. (B&S), based in Lanham and Greenbelt, Md., to assist Metropolitan Money Store in its foreclosure consulting and credit servicing business.
From September 2004 to June 2007, Jackson and others conspired to fraudulently promise to help homeowners, who had substantial equity in their homes but were facing foreclosure because of their inability to make monthly mortgage payments, avoid foreclosure and repair their damaged credit. The homeowners were directed to allow title to their homes to be put in the names of third party purchasers (the straw buyers) for a year, during which time Metropolitan Money Store promised to improve the homeowners’ credit ratings, help them obtain more favorable mortgages, and eventually return title to their homes to them. The homeowners were told that the equity withdrawn from the properties would be used to pay the mortgage and expenses on their homes and to repair their credit. The straw buyers were paid up to $10,000 to participate in the scheme and allow the properties to be put in their names. Jackson also served as a straw buyer on several properties in Maryland.
Using the homeowners’ properties, the conspirators applied for mortgages to extract the maximum available equity from the homes, and prepared and submitted fraudulent loan applications to mortgage lenders to obtain inflated loans on the target properties in the straw buyers’ names. At settlements, the conspirators imposed numerous fees and required “seller contributions” which were far in excess of industry standards; they imposed fees for services which were not performed, disclosed or explained to the homeowners; and they transferred the sale proceeds out of the escrow accounts into the conspirators’ business and personal bank accounts and converted a substantial portion of those funds to their personal use.
To carry out the fraud scheme, Jackson and others obtained large cashier’s checks in the names of straw buyers and Metropolitan Money Store employees to conceal transactions from the lenders. Jackson misappropriated the license and bond numbers of other brokerage and credit repair companies and used them to broker loans and fraudulently improve homeowners’ credit scores by adding fictitious lines of credit to their credit histories.
During the conspiracy, Jackson provided Wilbur Ballesteros, a licensed real estate agent who served as a closing agent on more than 60 straw buyer properties, with more than $100,000 in kickback payments to process real estate closings quickly. Moreover, whenever Jackson requested, Ballesteros permitted Metropolitan Money Store employees to close loans without him or any other closing agent being present. Jackson directed others to prepare fraudulent settlement documents that contained false information. Jackson and Kurt Fordham also paid bank employees to provide false income balances for straw buyers to lenders; add straw buyers and others onto accounts for lender verification purposes; transfer money into accounts to show a certain amount of money was in a bank account and thereafter return those funds to the original account; and shift money between Metropolitan Money Store and F&F accounts to facilitate loans in straw buyer’s names.
Finally, Jackson directed others to transfer the equity proceeds of homeowners into the general checking accounts of Metropolitan Money Store and F&F, as well as Jackson’s personal accounts. Jackson and Jennifer McCall withdrew these funds and paid for goods and services for themselves, including art, cars, clothing, credit card bills, homes, fur coats, furniture, airline trips, gambling expenses, jewelry, limousine services, student tuition and a luxury wedding for Jackson and Kurt Fordham.
As a result of this scheme, the total loss attributable to Jackson including the estimated losses to the mortgage lenders is $16,880,884.86.
Ten defendants, including a lawyer, mortgage broker, real estate agent, loan processor and company officers have pleaded guilty in this scheme. Jackson’s husband, Kurt Fordham, age 39, of Fort Washington, Md. was sentenced on July 10, 2009 to 10 years in prison for his participation in the scheme. On Sept. 14, 2009, Judge Titus sentenced Richard Allison, age 38, of Camp Springs, Md., an attorney and employee of the U.S. Census Bureau who provided legal services to MMS, F&F and Burroughs & Smythe, to 18 months in prison; and Carlisha Dixon, age 32, of Hyattsville, Md. to five months in prison and five months home detention. On Oct. 5, 2009, Judge Titus sentenced Jennifer McCall’s husband, Clifford McCall, age 48, of Lanham, Maryland to four years in prison and his daughter, Chandra Jones, age 31, of Lanham, Md., to 33 months in prison. Katisha Fordham was sentenced to one day in prison, followed by five months home dention and five months supervised release. Jennifer McCall, Ronald Chapman and Wilbur Ballesteros are scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 7, 2009.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein thanked the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Secret Service, Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation and the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation’s Division of Financial Regulation Investigative Unit for their investigative work. Mr. Rosenstein commended Assistant United States Attorneys James A. Crowell IV and Christen Sproule, who are prosecuting the case.
For more information, visit www.justice.gov.